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Needle in a haystack?

Withy Grove Vets Clinic / 22nd September 2013

On Monday evening this week, Jasmine, a lovely 9 year old Labrador, was rushed into the surgery coughing up pools of blood. Although she was bright and happy in herself, vet Mandy was concerned that she may have a foreign body such as a bone lodged in her trachea or windpipe, and admitted her for emergency examination and X rays.

Under a general anaesthetic and with a tube in her trachea, Mandy X rayed Jasmine’s throat and chest, and was shocked to find a sewing needle lodged in her chest, in the lung tissue just above her heart. She had swallowed the needle, and it had penetrated through her gullet or oesophagus and moved into her lung, where it was causing bleeding and fluid build up in the lung.

Obviously, it couldn’t stay where it was, but surgery to the chest carries an extremely high risk, especially with an older dog who is very poorly. However, vets Mandy and Suanne discussed Jasmine and decided that Suanne would proceed with attempting the surgery. Jasmine’s chest was very congested and it was felt that she would benefit from overnight medication to improve her chances of survival.

Mandy stayed with her all evening, monitoring and medicating her, but over the following hours her condition deteriorated dramatically, to the point where it was decided that sadly she needed to be put to sleep. Mandy contacted her owners, who came straight to the surgery to say goodbye.

Well, Jasmine thought differently, and when her owners arrived, she started to rally. She started wagging her tail, and within an hour she was on her feet and everyone agreed that if Jasmine hadn’t given up, then neither would we.

Mandy had a bit of a brainwave in the small hours of the morning. What if even a tiny amount of the needle was still lodged in the oesophagus? She and Suanne discussed the case on Tuesday morning, and decided to try putting an endoscope in her gullet, just on the off-chance that it was accessible. If it was, we just might be able to avoid having to perform life saving, but potentially incredibly risky surgery.

Jasmine was placed under an anaesthetic again, and the camera was introduced into her gullet. Well, the needle wasn’t there, but the thread it was attached to was! With some brilliant endoscope work, Suanne, aided by nurse Toni, managed to get hold of the thread, pulling the needle back with it, and Jasmine was left with nothing more than an ulcer in her oesophagus with a tiny pinprick in the middle.

Jasmine isn’t out of the woods yet by any means. We are monitoring her very carefully for signs of infection of the lungs, which have been quite badly injured by the needle. And of course she’s on liquid food for a few days to allow the delicate tissue to heal. But thanks to some skilled endoscopy, a good slice of luck in finding that the thread was still in the oesophagus, and the incredible spirit of a lovely Labrador, she’s hopefully on the way to recovery.

But as Toni commented, who would have thought that something so tiny could do so much damage?

jas5Jasmine after her ordeal

The needle in the chest The needle in the chest



Grasping the thread with forceps down the endoscope


The thread sticking out of the oesophagus wall The thread sticking out of the oesophagus wall



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Preston, PR5 6QR

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